2023 Aston Martin DBX707 First Drive Review: Tiger In A Three-Piece Suit

First Drive / Comments

Absolute power only corrupts when the foundation is weak to begin with.

Think about almost every 700+ horsepower car you can buy from the factory. Whether it's a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, Tesla Model S Plaid, or Bugatti Chiron, how much power they produce dominates the experience of driving one. That's not to say they don't have other impressive qualities, but big horsepower has a tendency to completely overpower the conversation. So when Aston Martin invited CarBuzz to Italy to drive the brand new Aston Martin DBX707 with 697 hp and 663 lb-ft on tap from an AMG-sourced twin-turbo V8, there were a few preconceived ideas about what the experience would be like.

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Performance SUVs, particularly ones that use power as a primary bragging right, tend to behave in a certain manner. They're loud, brash, and continually tearing at the leash. Think Lamborghini Urus. Worse still, to compensate for the weight of an SUV, they tend to be stupidly stiff and use every electronic trick in the book to overcome the laws of physics, very often compromising the driving experience. The Aston Martin DBX707 does none of these things. Well, aside from defying the laws of physics. What you have here is the most powerful luxury* SUV in the world, capable of a 3.1-second 0-60 mph time and a top speed of 193 mph, a figure that makes this the fastest SUV in the world too. And yet from behind the wheel, it's the complete antithesis of every other hot SUV we've ever encountered.

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Exterior: Intimidation Overload

Style is completely subjective, but there aren't many people I've spoken to that don't think the Aston Martin DBX looks good. Not just for an SUV, but period. The same team responsible for Aston's mid-engine masterpieces like the Valkyrie and Valhalla handled the bodywork here, stretching, pulling, bulging, and sculpting the sheet metal to accommodate the steroidal mechanicals beneath and create the impression of speed even while stationary. The humongous grille would put a BMW to shame for sheer real estate, but proportionally suits the DBX707, and is functional too, providing 80% more airflow to the outboard radiators. New DRL designs in the headlight housings and additional brake cooling ducts provide further visual width, while the sculpted hood features two prominent carbon fiber vanes to direct air over the top. Bulging wheel arches house 22-inch alloy wheels, with the option to go to 23s, but aside from the massive grille, not one of these features is capable of distracting from the rear of the car.

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The standard DBX already has prominent rear styling with a ducktail tailgate design that looks like it came straight from the Vantage. However, you'd probably miss that at first glance because the only thing you'd see is a giant carbon fiber diffuser protruding nearly six inches from the bottom of the rear bumper. Even the massive quad tailpipes seem too shy to assert themselves in the diffuser's presence, while the roof-mounted spoiler seems positively timid.

From every angle, there's something intricate to admire and gush over, and yet viewed in its entirety, the design is a cohesive sculpture of performance. Clearly an evolution of the lesser DBX, this isn't an all-new design so much as it is Aston Martin's best interpretation of what the DBX can be. Powerful. Oozing presence. Dripping aggression. But still refined and tasteful (maybe not the rear splitter, but who doesn't love a little excessive show of force every once in a while?).

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You can dress the DBX707 up in innumerable hues, whether they're 'off-the-shelf' choices like the Apex Grey model we drove or special colors from Aston Martin's Q division like the Formula 1 Green you see below. The brake calipers can be had in red, grey, yellow, bronze, or orange, and you can apply the black-out treatment to the badges and grille while choosing from three wheel designs, each with a variety of finishes, plus various carbon fiber detail options. In short, you could spend a full day configuring the DBX707, such is the extent of options that are available.

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Performance: The Most Powerful Luxury* SUV In The World

If you were wondering about that asterisk in the opening paragraph, here's the fine print. There are at least three performance SUVs that are more powerful than the Aston DBX707. That 707 in its name refers to the engine's output in PS, or metric horsepower, but here in the US of A, we measure outputs in mechanical horsepower. By these standards, the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 hidden beneath that bulging hood produces 697 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque, 13 ponies fewer than the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, 10 fewer than the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, and 323 hp below the Tesla Model X Plaid. But none of those are luxury SUVs, and in the latter category, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT's 631 hp is summarily swept under the table and the Lamborghini Urus' 641 hp is politely vacated to a Business Class seat.

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While it's effectively the same engine you'd find in a number of Mercedes-AMG models, when Tobias Moers moved from AMG to Aston, he poached the engineer who developed this motor, Ralph Illenberger. It might have been born in Affalterbach, but it's been perfected in Gaydon, with larger ball bearing turbochargers, a new exhaust, and a new engine calibration. Outright power wasn't the goal, but rather the experiential aspect of how it behaves both at sea level and way up at altitude. Power is routed to a rear-biased AWD system via a wet-clutch nine-speed automatic gearbox with a 7% shorter final drive. Aston engineers tell us that the system is almost exclusively rear-driven until it needs power elsewhere, aided by the fact that, in lower gears, torque-mapping prevents the full 663 lb-ft from throwing you into a tree. In real-world terms, all this equates to a 3.1-second 0-60 time, a 7.4-second 100-mph dash, and a 193 mph top speed. While the DBX707 may not be the world's most powerful SUV, it is the fastest in terms of its top speed and matches the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT to 60 mph.

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Driving Impressions: A Teddy Bear With Claws

We can throw every number in your face and it'll all count for nothing because the DBX707 is not actually about the numbers, despite what its name might suggest. Stick it in Sport or Sport+ driving mode, flatten the brakes, mash the throttle, and let the revs build to 4,000. Release your left foot and let the fun begin. The rear of the 707 squats as the fat 325/35 rear tires scrabble for grip. The rear squirms, hooks up, and what was only moments ago a speck in the distance is now right in front of you. Launch control is hilariously brutal, as the engine barks and roars and the turbos flutter under full throttle. But once you get over the party trick, which is all it will be for most buyers, reality sets in, and the DBX707 is completely docile. No one ever said the standard DBX was in need of more power, and in real-world applications, you'll seldom ever call on 697 horses to do your bidding. On one occasion on our drive, the need arose to overtake a string of slow-moving traffic. A mere thought later, accompanied by the flurry of two turbos and the blasting trumpets of a quartet of tailpipes, and the deed was done. The brakes, massive 16.5-inch carbon ceramics up front and 15.4 inches at the rear, are just as overpowered, although the linear fashion in which they respond and communicate through the pedal is refreshing. Perhaps on track, the full breadth of the 707's power would be of use, but in the real world, it's the chassis that does the talking more than the engine ever could.

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This is where the 707 surprises the most. While performance SUVs typically add concrete to the dampers, Aston's engineers slackened the rear end for better compliance. Stiffness wasn't added elsewhere so much as excess slop was removed with new top mounts for the front shocks and a complete recalibration of the active damper roll control system. Even the steering was reworked for a 9% increase in lateral stiffness. None of these on their own is noticeable, but when the gearbox is left in auto and the engine coasts along at 2,500 rpm on a wave of torque, you can lean on the chassis through twisting stretches of mountain road and feel the culmination of the DBX707's development in full effect.

The steering doesn't drip with feedback, but the weight is perfect and the response off-center is immediate. There's no doubting where the front end is pointing, either, and with a 52/48 front/rear weight balance (one of the reasons a V12 wasn't considered), the front wheels aren't fighting physics to keep the car in control. Importantly, you don't reach a point midway through the corner where all feedback suddenly evaporates - typically a no man's land in which a modern performance SUV is switching from mechanical grip to overcompensation by various electronic systems to keep things on the black stuff.

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The suspension setup deserves particular praise. Even on optional 23-inch alloy wheels and in the stiffest Sport+ suspension setting, the DBX707 retains a suppleness you wouldn't find in a BMW X5 M or even the Lamborghini Urus. Instead of changes to the driving modes yielding monumental changes in persona, the modes in the 707 result in subtle tweaks. Hit a bump or ride a bridge with dozens of expansion joints and each hit is met with a subtle thud. There's no aftershock, no secondary floatiness, and no reverberation that typically plagues vehicles with air suspension and 4,940 pounds to carry, regardless of what mode you're in. Bumps are a one-and-done affair with secondary body movement supremely well damped.

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The power is there should you ever need it, but the DBX707 is in no way dominated by its engine outputs. It's docile, even soft, but with a razor-sharp edge to it when you need it. The chassis enhancements are by far the most impressive element of this super-SUV, resulting in a car that feels genuinely smaller than its dimensions might suggest. The low cowl helps as forward visibility is supreme, but the fluidity of response to steering inputs is what seals the deal. It's why Aston Martin engineers decided against rear-axle steering, something they tell us was benchmarked during development. While it makes SUVs more agile in tight spots, it lacks the linearity of response a performance SUV needs, and the additional play in the interim states when only a slight amount of steering input is applied would've robbed the DBX707 of its decisive nature. Experiencing the 707 around a twisting mountain road in Sardinia, Italy, we can't help but feel that was the right decision.

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Interior: Improved But Underwhelming

As iconic a brand as Aston Martin is, there's no denying that it is in a state of recovery. The DBX has been an important cash cow in that regard, but telltale signs that the brand hasn't yet reached its full potential are present. In order to cut in-house costs and simplify production, Aston relies on Mercedes-AMG not only for the supply of engines but electrical architecture - including digital instrumentation and infotainment.

You don't have to look too hard to see the Mercedes influence in the DBX707's cabin, and unfortunately, that isn't necessarily a good thing. While the MBUX infotainment suite present in contemporary Mercs is one of our favorite systems, the one employed in the Aston is the older COMAND interface. Some graphics might have been tweaked, but the functionality is identical. That's a polite way of saying it's laggy and not entirely intuitive, and the lack of touch functionality on the 10.25-inch screen is a hindrance. Apple CarPlay is present but Android Auto is absent.

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Even the buttons on the center console, ranging from the adaptive damping to the manual transmission mode and rotary drive mode dial, are Mercedes-sourced, and a little more Aston personalization would go a long way toward enhancing the appeal from within the car. Other foibles include a driver's-side wing mirror that wouldn't adjust outward enough, steering wheel adjustment that cut off the top of the instrument cluster for a tall driver like myself, a strange steering wheel design with a front-facing crease, and the odd issue like a glovebox that didn't want to close.

That said, the 707's cockpit is still an improvement over a regular DBX. New 16-way power sports seats have a wingback-style design unique to this model. They're supportive without being overly complex to slide in and out of, and can be had in more than 30 primary colors with various secondary colors for some truly striking combinations including the Titanium Grey/Electron Yellow of the vehicle we drove. That could be a little vivid for some buyers, but the blue/black combo spotted on other cars at the launch was far classier. After spending seven hours on the road, I found the seats themselves to be a little firm. Comfort seats will be available as an option, which would make more sense if the DBX707 will see regular use as a family vehicle.

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The standard panoramic glass roof provides an abundance of light and lends the cabin an impressive airiness, although the rear seats are spacious as is with the typical "me-behind-myself" test yielding favorable results for a six-foot-something journalist. Newly-added features like soft-close doors and a new configurable cupholder design have been added in response to customer feedback from the regular DBX. The one feature we would like to see, which isn't even an option, is a head-up display to help circumvent the awkwardness of the COMAND infotainment system.

The cabin is a fine place to be, perhaps lacking a little specialness, but still feeling like a step up compared to the standard model. Of course, you can do it up with various trim inserts (we had carbon fiber in our tester) and Q by Aston Martin will tweak everything from the 'interior jewelry' to the carpets themselves to your liking.

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Verdict: Brute In A Suit

When you've been in the car game for a few years, you tend to have certain expectations of what a car might be like; call them informed extrapolations based on prior experiences. It's particularly refreshing when those expectations are proven wrong in the best sort of way.

The 707 PS power output of the highest-ranking DBX there is might have pride of place in the model's name, but that AMG-sourced and Aston Martin-tweaked engine merely plays best supporting actor in this theatrical experience. The DBX707's chassis is the star of the show, never being overpowered or undermined by the powertrain housed within it. It would've been all too easy for Aston Martin engineers to throw insane power and noise at the DBX and call it a day, letting prospective buyers be enamored with excess noise and unruliness. But instead, they took the high ground, dressing up the brutish performance in the refinement and luxury of a perfectly tailored three-piece suit.

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It's not perfect. The interior stands out in my mind as the area in which more could've been done. But this is by no means a dressed-up Mercedes-AMG, nor is this a wannabe Urus. This is the perfect embodiment of the iconic British Grand Tourer - rapid, refined, brutally efficient, and utterly entertaining when needed - somehow bundled in a family SUV.

Aston Martin says that the DBX707 and the forthcoming Vantage V12 embody a new focus for the brand on ultra-luxury crossed with excitement. If the brand can continue in this vein with chassis and powertrain development and escape the shackles of dated Mercedes technology, then it might just be onto something.

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Pricing & Specification: High-Rollers Only

At a base MSRP in the US of $236,000 excluding a $3,086 destination charge, the 2023 Aston Martin DBX707 carries a hefty price tag right on par with that of the Lamborghini Urus. Unlike the Urus, however, this isn't a dressed-up Audi RS Q8, and there are no luxury SUVs that have the bragging rights this does. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT Coupe might have Nurburgring bragging rights for the time being, but whisperings among the engineers at the launch of the DBX707 suggest the current record may not be long for this world.

Standard specification is generous for the money with keyless entry, soft-close doors, power seats with three-position memory, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic glass roof, adaptive air suspension, a 360-degree camera with park assist, and a 14-speaker, 800-watt sound system to accompany the SiriusXM satellite radio, four USB ports, wireless charging, Bluetooth, and satellite navigation.

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Options will quickly see the price soar, though. Our Apex Grey tester came equipped with a $5,000 paint job, yellow brake calipers ($1,500), the dark grille finish ($800), rear privacy glass ($1,900), smoked taillights ($1,200), the carbon fiber twill upper body package ($9,200), and 23-inch textured black wheels ($5,700) outside. Inside, a two-tone Inspire Sport interior ($7,600), Q Titanium Grey/Q Electron Yellow leather seats ($5,900), carbon fiber interior trim ($4,500), black chrome badges, Phantom Grey carpets, and silver contrast stitching throughout the cabin add up to a total as-tested price of $291,386 including destination.

It may be expensive, but when you're playing in this league, it isn't about value for money, it's about individuality, style, and how it makes you feel.

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